We are STOKED about our new partnership with Glade Optics--a super stylish ski goggles and sunglasses company. They offer really high quality eyewear while keeping the prices low with a factory-to-consumer business model. Keep reading to learn more about Glade’s founding and its journey of growth since then from its founder, Curt!
Tell us a little about how the idea for Glade Optics came to be. How did you decide on the business model and design for the goggles and sunglasses?
I grew up and avid skier (snowboarder back then) and always had the itch to strike it out on my own in the business world.. I had a few projects here and there in high school and college but nothing that I was taking too seriously. After college I was working in the research arm of a large market research firm based in Boston where I was exposed to a ton of innovative companies and business models and had the great fortune of being able to speak with many of the key decision makers in these companies. Before long it became clear to me that the consumer goods/retail industry was at an inflection point in terms of low barrier to entry and a huge influx of young people who purchase items in an entirely new way.
The factory-to-consumer model is (in my mind) a fantastic way to take advantage of this changing landscape because it allows us to sells our goggles at a much more favorable price point than our competitors without skimping on quality. By avoiding retail shops and only selling online we completely cut that layer of cost out of the equation and can pass those savings onto our customers. It's a simple but powerful model.
There will certainly be a subset of consumers who will always want to go into a shop to try on gear, so we offer free returns to encourage anyone to give our goggles a shot. We find that the vast majority of people ordering our goggles just to try them on end up keeping them - our return rate is crazy low and we're super proud of that.
The design of the goggles and sunglasses is a story of constant iteration - I would never consider myself a design expert so we rely on a pretty cool combination of customer feedback and crowdsourced designs to shape the way our gear looks. We send out a survey to past customers every 6 months basically asking "what kind of gear are you looking to buy next year?" "what would like to see in our future product lines?" etc. and we get a ton of great feedback. It's an awesome way to inject the voice of our customers into our product design and this process helps mitigate a lot of the uncertainty that comes with releasing new products.
How has Glade grown and expanded since its founding? What has that experience been like for you?
It's been a wild ride. I started the brand in the winter of 2014/15 and we've grown substantially every winter (and now summers too!) since then. It has been an incredible experience both from a business education standpoint and learning the "art of the hustle" which I'm sure you guys over there are familiar with as well. There is no "off" button on a business like this so it's legitimately a 24/7 endeavor. My biggest takeaway from this experience thus far is that there really is no substitute for getting your hands dirty and simply doing the work. You can read all the books in the world and never really understand what it's like day to day to build something from the ground up - both from a problem solving perspective and balancing the emotional and 'ego' side of things.
Besides your incredibly reasonable prices, how do you differentiate yourselves from other, big name eyewear companies?
Our customer base. Our customers are super supportive and really appreciative of what we're doing - I think the ski community in general is a great tribe to have behind you as they are generally a no bullshit community that knows what they like and more importantly what they don't like. Our Instagram channel is almost completely dedicated to customer generated content - we love seeing our products out in the wild and getting the chance to showcase the everyday skier on our Instagram channel. There is tremendous focus on the "extreme" side of skiing from our competitors - but this experience just isn't relatable to 99% of skiers and snowboarders. We think that the lighter side of skiing (hooting and hollering down the hill on pow days, reliving every turn on the lift back up, eating shit on the last run of the day, grabbing that apres ski beer with your friends) is where the real magic of skiing resides.
What kind of lifestyles or types of customers do you usually target?
Our customers are generally early adopters who aren't afraid to buy gear online and are looking for a community and message behind the gear they buy. We are definitely heavily trafficked by "Millennials", as much as I hate that generalization I think it's an accurate description of the age demographic of our customer base. Probably goes without saying that our customers are active and heavily involved in outdoor activities throughout all four seasons.